Before I begin, it’s important to express that I’m not diagnosed with any mental illness. Just like everyone else I have good days and bad days, but the bad days can go on longer than expected. I’ll start by saying that I started to notice something wasn’t right at the end of September 2017. I gradually started to become pulled away from the beauty of life and for me, it began to lose its colour.
I began my final year as an undergraduate, and it’s safe to say I knew it would be a challenging year but I never suspected that my mental health would slip before the stress even kicked in. Before that, I was quite happy, always looking on the bright side of life. So, what changed? Why did my mind fail to display the usual outlook of mine? What caused me to feel so low? I would ask myself these questions day in and day out searching for some clue. I was essentially trying to find the key to unlock my mental pain.
In my first semester of third year my mental health took a wrong turn. All of a sudden, I began to feel this overwhelming sadness that I would carry around with me for days and days, yet I would conceal it with a smile. I began to lose joy in things I love but would proceed to do those things out of pure robotic motion hoping the joy would resurface again, but it wasn’t that simple.
I began to feel tremendous guilt, hopelessness and confusion that would echo in my head resulting in what appeared to be panic attacks. Numbness and emptiness overtook me, making me feel like I was switched off from reality. Fast forward to my Christmas exams and I struggled with my memory. I started to feel incredibly lethargic and merely didn’t want to leave my bed in the mornings, yet things proceeded to get worse.
Over the Christmas break, I found myself in a bad headspace. I was trapped, fearful and to a great degree, anxious. I started to lose my appetite and felt bolts of anxiety rushing through my body while I was eating, and I was baffled about how this came over me. In saying that, I can honestly say starting the last semester of my degree isn’t going as well as I hoped. I started skipping classes and leaving college early which is something I’ve very rarely done before. At this point, all I can say is I’m a work in progress and I’m trying to overcome these feelings but it’s difficult more or less on my own and I know it will take some time.
With some support from a lecturer, I began engaging in self-care, such as meditating, reading self-help books, sticking to my exercise routine and so forth. I realised how important it is to pause and unplug yourself from the chaos lingering in our society, and I’m beginning to think that perhaps this is a key to unlock my mental pain. However, throughout this entire process of suffering with my mental health I still wish those around me would be a bit more mindful, in the sense that you really never know what is going on in someone else’s head, so be kind, always. I would be sitting in a lecture, and the lecturer would speak out the words “assignment” and “exam” yet I could feel myself internally crying with the thought of it. How was I going to cope with the workload while my head isn’t right?
I haven’t spoken to my parents about this because it’s as if they’re still living in the past, failing to acknowledge the challenges young people are facing. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. I admit, some part of me is dying to visit my GP, maybe that’s the key? Yet when you’re surrounded by loved ones who most likely don’t understand mental health problems, you’re stuck, and the secrecy will only make it permeate. I would like to spill this all out to someone I’m comfortable speaking to, someone who understands but most importantly someone who wants to listen, is that the key?
Some may think I’m strong but I’m strong because I have to, not because I want to. I accept that for the most part I am struggling but bottling this up makes me wonder whether the fear of stigma, the fear of a lack of understanding and the fear of being pushed away is blocking me from reaching any sign of hope. I truly believe everyone needs ‘homely’ support as I call it, meaning support from family and friends is the first step in knowing it’s okay not to be okay and to give someone a loving push in the right direction.
So yes, I’m stuck in this battle alone and it’s challenging, and I can honestly say I’m surprised I’ve made it this far without my friends and family knowing the extent of it. For now, the door remains locked and I still can’t find the key, but eventually I will and soon I’ll be free.